A Tasting: Christmas Buffet @ Raintree Restaurant

Call me a child of commercialisation, but when I was growing up, I would see all those Christmas dinners on the shows that I watched, from Garfield to Gremlin to Sesame Street to even those sitcoms that bored the hell out of me otherwise... and I would secretly crave for a proper Christmas dinner.

Now you'll probably have guessed that I was very much enthusiastic about food even at a very tender age, and all those scenes with roast turkeys and cranberry sauce and Christmas puddings just made me salivate. It was frustrating, craving all those things, when I come from a family which prefers Chinese cuisine over everything else, and a mother who's not exactly the biggest fan of cooking.

Since then I've had the opportunity to try a wide variety of food, with the places I've visited over the years, and have broadened my palate by almost recklessly throwing myself into the experience of new flavours and textures. Helps that Kuching now boasts more and more good restaurants promoting international cuisine. That said, traditional Christmas dinners still hold a special place in my heart, and because of that, I was mad excited when BCCK invited me to yet another Christmas food tasting this year.

Last year's Christmas offering by BCCK was in the form of set meals and buffets, but this year they've decided to only give the option of a Christmas buffet spread, but what a festive spread it is! And as much as I tried, I didn't manage to taste everything, so I'll just post on the highlights of that meal.

Anyway, the moment I set foot into the restaurant, my attention was immediately drawn by the pastry section of the buffet:




Gorgeous Christmas cakes and cookies - so festive and pretty, I spent a good five minutes gaping at them before remembering to check out the rest of the food.

The obligatory appetizers were present, as usual. Nice little mouthfuls to whet your appetite, consisting of everything from classic English potato salad to marinated oyster mushrooms with balsimico and smoked sausages. I didn't try any of them as I have very little stomach space to spare, but I thought they really did make visually interesting treats to stimulate the appetite.


I don't know why but I was pretty excited by the cheese platter. Not the most extensive selection of cheeses but decent enough. A nice chunk of blue cheese was offered, unfortunately most of the diners balked at it. More for me! And there's a pretty good selection of breads, crackers, and dried fruits to be served along with it.


There was a whole poached salmon too that evening. It got snapped up pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I wasn't too impressed with it, because it wasn't as fresh as I wanted it to be.


I want to interject here that the pan-seared fish fillet with capers beurre blanc which I seem to have neglected to snap a shot of fell slightly short of my expectations too. The sauce it came served in was good, but the fish itself was over-cooked and could've been fresher. Quite a shame, because I really loved the tartness of the sauce which would've been perfect with the fish, if it hadn't been so tough.

That aside, the steamed chicken roulade was really amazing. Done perfectly, and unexpectedly flavoursome, it was one of the few dishes offered that was relatively un-greasy and not rich at all. I really regret I didn't have more than just a piece but I was adamant I would try EVERY dish available, or at least try most of it.


One of the dishes that was prominently featured on the promotion poster for the Christmas buffet was this Santa's favourite rice:


While it wasn't bad-tasting, it wasn't very outstanding either. That said, some of the guys loved it and I'm sure it'll be a hit among those who require at least a little bit of rice in their meals.

I was just strolling past some of the other dishes on display when this caught my attention... buttered brussels sprouts!


Now brussels sprouts can be a little tricky to prepare. Like many members of the brassica family, they can develop a rather distinct flavour if overcooked, one that some find repellent. Also, with the introduction of heat, they can rapidly become grey and mushy - not exactly appetizing. These weren't the consistency of paste and not over-powering in flavour, and the butter really helped with enhancing the taste, so I quite happily had four of them.

I think the star of the evening was this, the coq au vin, which is basically rooster braised in wine:


I actually almost forgot to sample it, and almost walked right past it, when a fellow diner loudly exclaimed to me how much he loved it and insisted I try it. I'm glad he did... it was a gorgeous explosion of meaty flavours combined with the savoury sweetness of vegetables finished with the distinct aroma of Mediterranean herbs. And did I mention how fall-off-the-bone tender the chicken was? It was beautiful.

Found out that my friend, Rasyiq was manning the pastry stall. He was tasked with preparing a choice of spaghetti, penne, or fettuccine with either bolognese sauce or napolitana sauce.


I opted for the penne in bolognese sauce, and this was what I was served (with a big happy smile):


Very, very generous with the beef, they are!

Oh, and as expected, I got quite excited by the sight of this:


Yes, the Christmas turkey! For a moment I was engulfed in that fuzzy warm feeling of contentment as the chef carved generous chunks of the bird onto my plate.

I had it with some cranberry sauce, of course. And it was pretty good. It wasn't dry at all; in fact, it was almost juicy. =)


They also have a really good roast leg of lamb - I thought I snapped a shot of that, but apparently I didn't. I would highly recommend that too. I'll say, one thing Raintree Restaurant does quite well is the roasted meats and pastries. Any meal incorporating both of those usually turns out to be a winner.

Oh, and there was lobster bisque. LOBSTER BISQUE. I'm still feeling so, so sorry for myself, for only spotting this when I was already close to being disgustingly stuffed:


Remorse at the lack of ability to consume obscene amounts of food seems to be the theme of this meal, it seems.

I did try very valiantly to sample everything in the Christmas sweeties sections, beginning with the fruit-cake and ginger-bread...


... to the crème caramel...


... to the warm English bread and butter pudding...


... served with vanilla sauce...

.
... and the traditional Christmas pudding...



I'm not a fan of sweet stuff, but I just HAD to have at least a bite of all of that. I really appreciated that everyone could have one or more of those adorable little Christmas puddings which were packed full of fruits and nuts, but the one I had last year was better, very dense and moist.

However, the puddings weren't what I got really fixated on this time round. This was actually what I was looking forward to trying:


Christmas stollen! I'd never heard of stollen until I was going through the promotional material for this event. Turned out it's a really yummy cross between bread and fruit-cake. It's a very European traditional Christmas offering, because BCCK's CEO, Mr. Paul D'Arcy happens to be married to a German lady. Pretty glad to have been introduced to a new Christmas treat. =)

Also comes as a marzipan-filled version:


It's a little on the sweet side, but really nice and fruity. Would've gone gorgeously pair with a scoop of ice-cream, and if I wasn't running out of stomach space so quickly I might have done so.

And there was this Swiss fruit tart which I really liked, because it was filled with juicy whole cherries. Love!


Don't forget to ask for a cup of coffee to end your meal at BCCK. They use very fragrant Sarawakian coffee-beans, which is brewed to perfection. The staff here make a mean cafe latte and cappuccino, opt for those if black coffee isn't quite your cuppa.

This is my black coffee...


It was a really lovely note to end the dinner on... =)

This Christmas buffet will take place at Raintree Restaurant from the 21st to 26th of December. At RM72 nett for adults and RM30 nett for children, I do think it's quite value for money, considering the range of yummy holiday-themed edibles offered.

There will be a Christmas brunch served on Christmas day itself, which will be priced at RM55 for adults and RM27 for children.

To ensure that you won't have to fight a whole bunch of other foodies for a table, you may reach Raintree Restaurant at 082 392 888 for reservations and/or enquiries.

Thanks Mike, for the invite! Am now actually contemplating if I should got back for a second round of all those chrimassy confections on Christmas Day itself...

9 comments:

Garner Wyne said...

I remember I ate the lower part of the Gingerbread Man haha

CreativeBitchin said...

hahahahah WHY!? i thought it was so kesian, i kinda left him alone =P

Sherrie Pui said...

Rasyiq working back in Kuching?
I always love reading your post!=)

David said...

Irene,

You are indeed a child of secular commercialisation.

Be aware that Christmas as delivered by Garfield to Gremlin to Sesame street barely touch why Christmas is celebrated around the world.

I enjoy Christmas parties, good food and those yummy desserts.

BTW much of what you show and write about here looks so so good!

Stollen bread is very enjoyable. There are variations in stollen bread recipes and finding one you really enjoy is worthwhile.

I know you are not religious.

There are many ways to bring Christmas, the Christmas spirit and meaning of Christmas to life and into your own life.

I will leave that up to you.

If you ever find Christmas truly entering into your heart, soul and life, I know you will write extensivley on such an occurence.

Merry Christmas to you and all you hold near and dear!

David

Kolon Mee Fan said...

Christmas in Asia is mostly just a chance to party. I love the way we celebrtate Christmas in Kuching or in Malaysia, all races greet each other and just party without
triumphalism in religions.
This big big chain shop in Kuching that specialized in selling things like chinese hell/ghost money,now they also sell plastic Jesus,Santa and plastic Christmas trees. I love it.

CreativeBitchin said...

sherrie: that was his last week. doing some sort of three-month training. and thanks for the compliments!

david: i'm not religious but i do believe in the whole season of giving thing. i love christmas, i love how people come together to celebrate, i love the kindnesses shown, love the christmas cheer. i do celebrate with friends, even though not in the religious context of things =)

i'm very blessed to live in a very harmonious multi-cultural society, where celebrations such as these just gives us yet another excuse to come together, put aside our differences, and have a good time together.

stollen is yummy! i would love to learn how to made some of that... it's really much nicer than i expected it to be.

kolon mee fan: exactly! it's just amazing to be living here... i love how people just celebrate all these holidays together, without discriminating against race or culture or age. living in kuching always makes me feel like i couldn't ask for a better mix of people =)

David said...

Irene & kolon mee fan; very happy to know you live in a country where races and different religious faiths coexist in harmony and enjoy and share in the others diversity.

Very similar here in the States, there is a reason the U.S.A. is called the melting pot of the world.

Irene, per your request:
Ingredients for Stollen bread:

For the Fruit:
1 cup mixed candied fruit
1 cup raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum or orange juice


For the Sponge:
1 scant tablespoon or 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour


For the Dough:
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
3 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Oil, for coating bowl


For the Filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons granulated sugar


For the Topping:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Directions:


Prepare Fruit: Combine the mixed fruit, raisins, and rum. Cover and set aside. Shake or stir the mixture every so often to coat the fruit with the rum.

Prepare Sponge: In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast in the water to soften. Heat the milk to 110 degrees F and add it to the yeast along with the honey and 1 cup flour. Cover the sponge with plastic wrap and let rise until light and full of bubbles, about 30 minutes.

By Hand: Add the fruit mixture, honey, egg, butter, zest, salt, mace, almonds, and 2 cups of the flour to the sponge. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until the dough is smooth and elastic.


By Mixer: In the mixer bowl, add the fruit mixture, honey, egg, butter, zest, salt, mace, almonds, and 2 cups of the flour to the sponge. Using the paddle, beat the mixture on medium low speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Change to the dough hook. Continue to add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just begins to clean the bowl. Knead 4 to 5 minutes on medium-low.


First rise: Put the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

I provided the recipe, please let me be the first to know how it turns out and taste!

I would rush over to taste the bread. However I cannot simply get an airline ticket to your part of the world on short notice.

Happy New Year!

David

David said...

Irene and kolon mee fan:

Irene states; "...... i love how people just celebrate all these holidays together, without discriminating against race or culture or age."

The truth is everyone should live together every day with malice or discrimination. In the States life is that way pretty much everywhere and every day. True there are pockets of people who resist change and have date concepts regarding racial purity and other dated concepts.

Do either of you have an idea where the concept of tolerance, love and diversity developed and thrived. Racial and religious tolerance have not come the world easily.

There are places today where one cannot practice a different religious faith than what is dictated by that nation or region without persecution. Place in Africa and the middle-east still allow slavery. You read that right. Fellow humans are owned by another and used for what ever purpose the owner dictates. All nations have anti-slavery laws. But in the regions mentioned tribal and ethnic loyalties demand more respect than national laws.

If you can look upon a physically limited individual or physically challenged person as an equal and friend, then both of you are people I can admire and like.

David

Kolon Mee Fan said...

@ David

Human are strange creatures. The elites; politicians, religious figures all seem to want to educate, influence, control the masses just like the pigs in Animal Farm.
In Malaysia, and I believe in many other countries religions is used by elites as a tool to divide and control the people.
Every person I believe have their own discriminatory biases and consciously trying to be politically correct, especially in front of others.

People in Malaysia with different religions live in peace mostly out of respect and superstitions. But once in a while some extremist religious figures or politicians will stir things up mostly to grab power and money.